It was fitting that Oklahoma City's stop on the Cowboy Preview Tour was at Remington Park on Monday night.
Oklahoma State coach Pat Jones wanted to talk about thoroughbreds Keith Burns and Jason Gildon.
"It's the first time we've had some real marquee guys coming into a season since (Barry) Sanders left" after the 1988 season, Jones said. "The first time we've had guys that you think legitimately will go on beyond this level. " Burns, a junior-college transfer a year ago, became a dominant linebacker who was voted Big Eight Conference newcomer of the year.
Gildon, a senior defensive end, has a renewed commitment that has Jones believing Gildon will be the player OSU coaches hoped he would become in 1992.
"I've always felt if you have those marquee guys - AND they perform - then you have a chance at a really good year," Jones said.
Jones' marquee players (Leslie O'Neal, Mark Moore, Sanders, Thurman Thomas) have corresponded to OSU's marquee years (1984-85, 1987-88). With the exception of tailback Earnest Anderson, who suffered through an injury-marred season in 1983, "when we've had 'em, we've had pretty good years. " Burns, a 6-foot-2, 235-pounder, has Jones most excited: "He is a very special guy . . . those guys who has a legitimate knack of bringing players up to his performance level.
"Thurman did it. Sanders did. O'Neal. Mark Moore. Just because they are a dominant physical presence. 'Keith did it last year.
That's terribly uncanny for a guy who had never been at this level. " Burns was the catalyst in OSU improving by four games over its 0-10-1 disaster of 1991. He had 126 tackles, 102 solo, numbers that have made him an all-American on most major pre-season lists.
Jones noted that Burns was voted team captain after four games and received virtually every vote: "With Keith out there, we never have a bad workout. " Gildon was an All-Big Eight pick his first two years at OSU but got in Jones' doghouse last season after questionable summer work habits. Still, he had 77 tackles, including 10 sacks.
Now, Gildon draws Jones' praise: "Gildon has had a great preseason, a great second semester. I don't know that he missed a workout all summer. Did very well taking care of his affairs. " OSU returns 11 starters on offense, "but the real marquee guys are on defense. Burns, Gildon, (free safety Scott) Harmon, (lb Richie) Ansley . . . capable of being all-league players. " Offensively, Jones terms his key personnel "emerging" players: all-purpose back Rafael Denson; quarterback Gary Porter ("if he's right") and split end Shannon Culver. "They're not quite as far along as those guys on defense. " Poking Around: Asaf Harris, a junior who sat out last season after transferring from Purdue, suffered a knee injury last week and may be lost for the season.
Three OSU recruits - tight end Alonzo Mayes of Douglass and linebacker Anthony Randle of Weatherford and Clarence Wallace of Dallas Roosevelt - failed to qualify academically. Randle has signed with Northeastern A&M Junior College and Wallace is likely to attend a Texas juco, but Mayes is expected to enroll at OSU.
However, Jones got some welcome news when defensive end Jevon Langford of Washington, D.C., qualified. The 6-foot-4, 220-pounder was a USA Today honorable mention all-American and the most valuable player in a recent D.C. all-star game.
The loudest cheer of the night came during a video of 1992 highlights, when Harmon forced a fumble by Oklahoma quarterback Cale Gundy on a 4th-and-goal play that keyed a 15-15 tie.
Jones on Porter, who in 1992 became just the third Big Eight freshman to pass for at least 1,200 yards but also was cited for a drunk driving offense: "I'd be a liar if I didn't say about half the team he runs us crazy. But hopefully, things will work out. He has made some strides. Gary's biggest trouble is he's 19 and thinks he's a little bit invincible. " OSU freshmen report Aug. 9, the varsity comes in on Aug. 13, the preview scrimmage is Aug. 28 and the season opener against Southwest Missouri State is Sept. 11. BIOG: NAME:Archive ID: 546466